Copyright Registration

Golden v. Nadler Pritikin & Mirabelli, No. 05 C 283, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Dec. 21, 2010) (Gottschall, J.).
Judge Gottschall denied plaintiff Golden’s motion to dismiss or for a more definite statement pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) & (e) in this copyright dispute over real estate listings. Golden was not required to attach a copy of its copyright registration to its complaint. And while it was an “extraordinarily close question whether Golden’s “bare-bones” amended complaint satisfied Twombly, it did plead ownership of a registered copyright and it did plead that defendant allegedly copied the work without consent. Because Golden’s complaint was so bare-bones, defendant’s motion to dismiss was not in bad faith. The Court, therefore, denied Golden’s Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 motion regarding the motion to dismiss.

Continue Reading Plaintiff Need Not Attach Copyright Registration to Complaint

Stereo Optical Co., Inc. v. Judy, No. 08 C 2512, 2008 WL 4185689 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 8, 2008) (Kocoras, J.).
Judge Kocoras granted in part defendants’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff’s copyright, trade secret and related state law claims. The Court noted that the Seventh Circuit required a registered copyright, not just pre-registration, to file a copyright complaint. But the Court held that it was sufficient to allege the registration and did not dismiss the claim because the registration was not attached. The Court did note, however, that the registration requirement was jurisdictional and the motion, therefore, should have been styled a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) motion for lack of jurisdiction.
The Court also denied defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s trade secret complaints. While plaintiff did not specifically identified the allegedly misappropriated trade secrets they did allege misappropriation of customer lists, vision test methodologies and other information that could be trade secrets.
Finally, the Court dismissed plaintiff’s unjust enrichment claim because it was preempted by the copyright and trade secret claims. The alleged unjust enrichment sought damages for either the alleged copyright infringement or the alleged trade secret misappropriation. Plaintiff’s other state claims, however, required additional elements and were not preempted.

Continue Reading Allegation of Registration Without Certificate Sufficient for Copyright Claim

Johnson v. Cypress Hill, No. 03 C 9452, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jul. 7, 2008) (Norgle, J.).
Judge Norgle struck defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff Johnson’s copyright infringement claim. The Court previously denied summary judgment as to the other plaintiffs, Watts and Jones – click here to read the Blog’s prior post about that opinion. Plaintiffs authored the song “Is It Because I’m Black” in 1968 and recorded a version of it in 1969 (the “Song”). Plaintiffs alleged that defendants, including the musical group Cypress Hill (click here for some of the group’s music on their MySpace page), infringed their copyright in the Song by using parts of it in their Black Sunday album.
Johnson’s copyright claim is based upon a 1997 registration for a compilation of songs allegedly containing the Song. But a review of a certified copy of Johnson’s compilation from the Copyright Office proved the Song was not on the deposited compilation. Because the Song was not a part of the registered work, Johnson could not show ownership of a valid copyright. The Court, therefore, dismissed the claim.
The Court also held that Johnson’s failure to file a Notice of Use pursuant to the 1909 Copyright Act was irrelevant because Congress deleted the Notice of Use requirement effective January 1, 1978, before any alleged infringement occurred.

Continue Reading Court Dismisses Copyright Case for Lack of Registration

Watts v. Cypress Hill, No. 03 C 9452 & 06 C 3348, 2008 WL 2540811 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 28, 2008) (Norgle, J.).
Judge Norgle denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s copyright infringement claim. Defendants’ motion was based upon three arguments: 1) plaintiffs did not have a valid copyright registration; 2) plaintiffs’ suit was barred by the statute of limitations; and 3) plaintiffs failed to file a Notice of Use as required by the 1909 Copyright Act. Plaintiffs authored the song “Is It Because I’m Black” in 1968, and recorded a version of it in 1969 (the “Song”). Plaintiffs alleged that defendants, including the musical group Cypress Hill (click here for some of the group’s music on their MySpace page), infringed plaintiffs’ copyright in the Song by using parts of it in their album titled Black Sunday.
Copyright Registration
Defendants argued that plaintiffs did not meet their burden of proving a valid copyright registration because instead of the registration certificate or a copy of the deposited CD, plaintiffs produced a printout of the Copyright Offices’ summary of their registration. Because defendants did not dispute the information in the summary, the Court denied summary judgment. The validity of the registration was a question of fact for the jury.
Statute of Limitations
As to plaintiff Watts, defendants argued that Watts’s claim fell outside the Copyright Act’s three year statute of limitations because Watts contacted the Copyright Office in April 2003 to inquire about the status of his copyright in the Song, more than three years before Watts’ June 20, 2006 filing date. During his deposition, Watts testified:
That he was not aware of the alleged infringement when he contacted the Copyright Office;
That he contacted the Copyright Office just to check on the status of his copyright; and
That his contact with the Copyright Office was prompted by learning of the alleged infringement.
The Court held that this contradictory evidence would allow a jury to draw an inference for either party, making summary judgment inappropriate. The Court also denied summary judgment as to plaintiff Jones. The court found no evidence that Jones did know or reasonably should have known of the alleged infringement in April 2003.
Notice of Use
Plaintiffs’ failure to file a Notice of Use pursuant to the 1909 Copyright Act was irrelevant. Congress deleted the Notice of Use requirement effective January 1, 1978, long before any alleged infringement occurred.

Continue Reading Copyright Office Printout Suggesting Registration Sufficient to Maintain Infringement Claim

Rudnicki v. WPNA 1490 AM, No. 04 C 5719, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill., Jul. 24, 2008) (Moran, Sen. J.).
Judge Moran denied plaintiff’s motion in limine to preclude defendants from arguing non-registration of plaintiff’s allegedly copyrighted works. Plaintiff argued that his certificate of registration was conclusive proof that his works were registered. But plaintiff only deposited six of his works with his applications. In response, plaintiff argued that deposit of a representative sample was all that was necessary for registration, and all that was necessary for statutory damages.
The Court, however, held that the mandatory registration requirement, and its exceptions pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 407, was separate from the registration-deposit requirement, pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 408. The registration-deposit requirement did not provide exceptions for works first published outside the United States, such as plaintiff’s works. Because § 408 required deposit for all of plaintiff’s works, and because plaintiff had not identified if any of the six works plaintiff deposited was at issue in this case, the Court denied plaintiff’s motion.

Continue Reading Copyright Mandatory Registration and Registration-Deposit Requirements are Separate

The Copyright Office just began accepting, through its eCO system, electronic copyright registrations. The Copyright Office accepts “basic” electronic registrations only, including:
1. single works;
2. collections of unpublished works by the same author that are owned by the same claimant; and
3. multiple published works contained in the same unit of publication that are owned by the same claimant.
To register online, go to the Copyright Office’s eCO site, complete the application, pay the fee (you can pay be credit/debit card, or with a deposit account), and submit the work – works can be submitted electronically or by printing a shipping slip to accompany a hard copy of the work.
According to the Copyright Office, here are some of electronic filing benefits:
* Reduced filing fees;
* Faster processing time (you do not have the mailing delay);
* Online tracking of registration status; and
* Electronic deposit of certain classes of works.

Continue Reading Copyright Office Begins Accepting Electronic Registrations